Case Study and Building Blocks

A case study is a “systematic inquiry into an event or a set of related events which aims to describe and explain the phenomenon of interest” -Bromely.

When I hear the word case study, the first thing that comes to mind is this must be boring (yawns). 

Five components of a case study include:

  1. Research
  2. Questions
  3. Propositions
  4. Unit of Analysis
  5. Measurement of data linked to propositions to interpret findings

There a several types of case studies that can take place, depending on the purpose, such as actual, interpretative, and evaluative. As stated above, the researcher comes up with a question, which is accompanied by possible sources of data. The research must then map the data from multiple sources, assemble charts, color code it, and lastly, the data is read, summarized, and organized. 

A case study, in a way, reminds me of the grounded theory method; both of these methods rely on interviews as the primary source of data collection. Another similarity I found between the two practices is they both require the researcher/student to move in and out of data as needed. I also found that both studies have boundaries when selecting in-depth information to discover concepts. Am I wrong to compare the two? It makes me wonder if the two studies can ever co-exist? 

The text states, “the utility of a case study is that it encourages educators to consider additional steps in a caring educational curriculum that emphasizes communication and relationships between human beings (Scott, 2005). I wonder if using a case study would be valuable when conducting my study for my thesis paper. 

The article “Building Blocks and Learning” by Dr. Nelson explores how nonnative speakers learned to write in first-year university courses. Every day, students in classes around the world produce massive amounts of work in the form of written assignments. The question then is how we can move the purpose of student work from proving mastery to improving learning? 

There is a massive difference in writing when comparing English speakers and other language learners. My homeroom is 12 general education students and 12 ELL students who have graduated from ESL. What I noticed is English writing depends on the native learner’s specific features and native language. It also differs from person to person because they carry on aspects of their native language into speaking and writing English. I am in no way prepared to teach these students; all I have is a list of accommodations I should be supplementing into my lesson plans. Even then, I feel super unprepared to teach these students to my fullest extent. I do not have a degree in ESL, despite this I feel 

the bar for teacher training remains elusive across multiple levels of school governance.,

The article suggests the Complexity theory is a suitable method to move composition towards an explanatory model of learning to write in another language. It studies the dynamic process; independent agents dynamically interact and adapt to one another, which helps students self organize emerging in new patterns and behaviors. The four properties are of complexity theory are:

1. aggregation

2. nonlinearity

3. flows, 

4. diversity

Holland explains complexity theory as an internal model in three steps: reproduction through fitness, recombination via cross-over, and replacement. This process means students continue to use the schemas that work while incorporating new concepts or replacing them with new schemas. 

Nonnative speakers, from the cases I’ve seen, do replace schemes to acclimate to the American classroom. And that is what Holland suggests building blocks is, instead of focusing on a predetermined piece of writing, where the student produces exactly what the teacher wants, we should focus on interactions, adaption, and emergence. I am guilty of being the teacher who expects my nonnative speakers to produce correct essays. I feel like that is the only way I know/knew how to teach ELL learners, by giving an assignment with exact directions, and as long as they produced something even close to that, I am ok with that. 

Dr. Nelson’s case study examined his own first-year rhetoric and Composition students, with 13 students from eight different counties. The students wrote three argumentive essays throughout the course and self-assessed, providing rigorous explanations as to why they earned that grade. Some students were found reproducing inappropriately because learning in different counties is varied from leaning in America. This is interesting to think about; the text says some countries require students to find the meaning of the text themselves. As per my students, they can’t find the meaning of the text until I break it down and sometimes even bring them to the answer with precise questions. 

Building blocks serves as an excellent way for anyone to raise awareness of their own practices within and across class boundaries. The teachers job is then to help the writer build confidence and be alert of what they already know and to encourage them to use it.

Work Cited:

Nelson, C. (2004). Building blocks and learning. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education 1, 39-56.